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“Differences, not similarities, are the source of strength” (Stephen R. Covey). This is my favorite quotation because it prioritizes the well-being of all people in our community and reflects the desire to be valued and respected as pillars of our successful community. Cultural change and diversity are both desirable and unavoidable. Learning and understanding individuals who are different allows us to value cultural diversity. I’ve always been a curious person who enjoys learning about different cultures since I was a child. Here, I’d like to describe a life-changing experience I had while attending the Islamic wedding of one of my close friends.

Starting with a brief history of Islam, the word ‘Islam’ literally means ‘submission to God’s will’. Due to the strong relationship between religion and society, any Muslim society must be Islamic. The Quran and Sunnah, according to the Islamic perspective, are the stable foundation on which cultural growth is built. Furthermore, the origins of Islamic culture include the entire vast and abundant history passed down by the forefathers of the Islamic Ummah to their successors, in addition to the Quran and Sunnah of the prophet. In this sense, Islamic culture provides a broad foundation in its vast dimensions, aiming for nothing less than global human brotherhood, correct beliefs, and constructive knowledge being among the nation’s most important foundations.

Last month, I watched my dearest friend’s happy wedding, which took place on January 4, 2021. It was a thrilling experience for me because I had never been to a Muslim wedding before. It was different from my own Sikh religion in a variety of ways.

I used to have a limited command of the Islamic religion because I had only watched a few shows, but as time went on, my desire to learn more about the culture grew. I recently learned that in Islam, both the groom and the bride must orally and in writing consent to the marriage. This is accomplished by a formal marriage proposal and acceptance of the proposal. A first-time bride’s wali – a male guardian who watches out for her best interests – is frequently present during contract talks. Nonetheless, the bride must announce her willingness to marry. Consent cannot be acquired from individuals who are legally unable to do so, such as the mentally ill, underage children, or the elderly. People who are legally unable to offer permission, such as the incapacitated, small children, or those with physical or mental limitations that restrict their capacity to understand and consent to a legal transaction, cannot give consent. Marriage customs vary according to culture, an Islamic sect, and gender separation norms followed. The majority of weddings do not take place in mosques, and men and women are kept apart during the ceremony and celebration. Because Islam does not recognize any official clergy, any Muslim who understands Islamic tradition can perform the duties of a wedding officiant. If a person is getting married in a mosque, many of them have marriage officers, known as qazi or madhun, who can supervise the ceremony. A meher – a formal statement detailing the monetary amount the groom will give the bride – is included in the marriage contract. The meher has two parts: an immediate payment payable before the wedding and a deferred payment provided to the bride throughout the course of her life. Because the groom delivers the ring during the ceremony, most couples now utilize it as the prompt. A minor sum can be delayed as a formality, while a substantial gift of money, land, jewelry, or even education can be made. Unless the marriage is annulled before consummation, the gift is the bride’s to keep and use as she pleases. The bride’s protection and freedom inside the marriage are guaranteed by the meher. Following nikah, the officiant may perform a religious ceremony that normally involves the recitation of the Fatihah – the first chapter of the Quran – and Durad (blessings).

For me, the most remarkable part is seeing their wedding costumes, which were entirely distinctive and elegant. When it comes to Muslim families, different levels of comfort exist. When it comes to wedding attire, they have different ideas. To be honest, I was undecided about how to dress for the wedding, so I opted for traditional attire with a head covering, especially at the mosque. After the wedding ceremony, the Muslim bride changes into an ornate gown many civilizations. This gown is frequently embellished with pearls, gold, and gemstones. It’s a sight to behold, especially for first-time Muslim wedding guests.

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Gender separation is also a common feature of many Muslim ceremonies, including Muslim weddings. Although not every Muslim couple may want to separate the genders at their wedding, more traditional weddings will do so. Men and women may celebrate in separate rooms, be separated by a barrier, or simply sit at different tables during the reception. Non-Muslim guests may be seated with people of opposite genders in some instances. As a visitor, I followed their traditions and avoided interacting with someone of the opposing gender.

Following the signing of the wedding contract, it was time for a feast known as walima, which may include traditional symbols of fertility and plenty such as fish, chicken, rice, and candy-covered almonds. Another item that stands out is that alcohol drinking was prohibited at an Islamic wedding. This is the first post-wedding rite, followed by ruksat. The bride waves goodbye to her relatives in this ritual. Although it is an obviously emotional occasion, the bride is greeted warmly by her mother-in-law as she arrives at her new home. To signify the bride’s responsibilities as a wife, the holy Quran is placed on her head. This was a lovely occasion, and I consider myself privileged to have been a part of it.

Reflecting on my experience at my dear friend’s wedding ceremony, I was able to comprehend that diversity is not as straightforward as it appears. Many barriers stand in the way of acceptance of other cultures and ideas. There may be instances in real life in the workplace when an individual is hesitant to learn about or embrace other cultures. It is insufficient to have a varied pool of brainpower. The challenge is to increase the integration and social acceptance of persons from various backgrounds constantly. It’s also vital to foster an open and inclusive work environment in which all members of the team feel free to contribute. These disparities frequently obstruct our ability to work together. Islam has expanded to the four corners of the globe like water bursting from a spring and flowing downstream into rivers. The truth is that Islam is like rivers that all flow from the same spring; the flavor and color vary depending on the riverbed and type of soil, but this does not impact the purity or quality of the water. Furthermore, there may be a variety of negative stereotypes or prejudices that make it difficult to integrate multicultural people and bring them together as one to achieve a similar purpose. As a result, it is critical to develop an environment of cohesion and integration to avoid the construction of silos and the isolation of individuals. Negative cultural stereotypes can have a negative impact on employee morale and productivity. For example, the centuries-old animosity between the Arabs and the French, or between the Poles and the Germans, might occasionally intrude into the workplace. Cultural humility and awareness must be brought into the scene to overcome such unfavorable biases.

Furthermore, other hurdles may exist, such as language barriers, which might unintentionally lead to misinterpretation or misunderstanding, defeating the very objective of cultural understanding. Language hurdles are only one of the difficulties. Even in an organization where everyone speaks English, recognizing a variety of accents or idioms used by native speakers might be challenging. Furthermore, effective cross-cultural communication entails much more than simply speaking words. Nonverbal communication is a complex and nuanced aspect of cultural interaction that can lead to misunderstandings or even insult among team members from other nations. Things like physical space, making or sustaining eye contact, and gesturing can differ dramatically throughout cultures. Colleagues from other cultures can bring with them a variety of work environments, attitudes, values, habits, and etiquette are all factors to consider. While these might be enriching and even advantageous in a varied professional setting, they can also lead to misunderstandings or bad feelings among team members.

Finally, the notions of diversity, cultural awareness, and understanding have swept the business world off its feet. Managing a diverse set of employees will necessitate extra effort to ensure that corporate behavior is ethical. This is because personnel with diverse origins or demographic characteristics may have varied ethical standards. Understanding deep-rooted diversity is important in addition to surface-level variety, which distinguishes and identifies people based on characteristics such as age, gender, culture, ethnicity, and so on. As a result, managing cultural variances and differing ethical behaviors among teams presents several issues. Globalization and multinational corporations rely on diversity these days to survive. Businesses, both globally and locally, have realized that employees are the most important resource they have. When given the opportunity to work with people from various cultural backgrounds, they are less stressed and more driven. It gives you a sense of belonging, as well as a renewed sense of accomplishment and work ethic. When employees are given the opportunity to work in multicultural teams, not only does their appreciation for different cultures grow significantly, but it also has a direct and beneficial impact on employee engagement, dedication, and commitment to their jobs. An engaged employee is someone who is completely committed to and excited about their job.

Finally, attending a cultural event broadened my cultural horizons and aided me in developing a perspective on cultural awareness, humility, and inclusivity.

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